ARTIST: Sly & the Family Stone
TITLE: Dance to the Music
YEAR RELEASED: 1968
CHART ACTION: #142
SINGLES: Dance to the Music (#8 US, #9 R&B, #7 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Higher (the original version, not the hit)
LINEUP: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Gregg Errico. The group Little Sister did some backing vocals as well.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hits, we need hits!” While they weren’t a fan of it at first, they found a formula that combined their egalitarian vocal arrangements, the upbeat politics, and their funky grooves and it struck gold.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: First, you keep the peace and love lyrics, but then add each member getting a solo turn on vocals and / or their instrument, and keep the funky beat while making the record swing and radio ready. “Dance to the Music” was the result of their first experiment with that, and it was a smash success.
While there were some kinks to work out (the material wasn’t consistent and the medley at the end of side one kind of is a filler riffing on the single for the most part), the joyous nature of the songs and arrangement shine through.
It’s still not the place to start with this important band, but you can’t get the entire experience by compilations. Their albums from here until the mid-70’s were important culturally, as they reflected the optimism and the reality of the times.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sister Rose Stone joined the band, and everyone joined in on ‘vocal improvisations’.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some B-sides and stuff left on the cutting room floor.
GRADE B+: Yeah, there’s some filler here, but there’s some funky joy here and it points them toward their creative peaks.